Gundam In Progress

Bandai’s RE/100 Gundam Mk. III: Framing And Painting

As I’ve fallen deeper down the rabbit hole that is Gunpla, one grade of kit has continued to stand out to me.ย 

While enjoy building Master Grade (MG) and High Grade (HG) kits, something about the RE/100 line has really hooked me. This grade is a bit unique. It’s focused on lesser known mobile suits from various Gundam storylines. While it is in the same scale as the MG kitsย  – 1/100 scale – the overall engineering is a bit like an HG kit – but not entirely. It’s certainly more than simply a High Grade kit at 1/100 scale. The engineering and detail are often every bit as good as any MG kit, and while the construction is HG in simplicity generally, the outcome is often hard to distinguish from a MG Gunpla.

My first RE/100 was the GP04 Gerbera, and I absolutely loved the kit. At the time, I’d just started building Gunpla, so aside from knowing it looked cool, I had no idea where it fit in the lore of the universe. (Not that knowing that is a requirement!) But it left with the thought “If all Gunpla were like this, I’d never build anything else.” I was truly impressed.

The next RE/100 kit I built was the Guncannon Detector. Even though it looks a bit goofy to my eye, I thought it had a unique (though somewhat comical) look to it. Of course, I will admit that the primary reason I built it was to get a few good jokes written about its… well… rather bulbous appendage. (Who thought of that?) So while childish jokes probably aren’t a great reason to buy a kit, I had no complaints really about the build itself. Another solid win for RE/100.

I’d been looking at other kits in the RE/100 line, and initially the Gundam Mk. III caught my eye. But those colors… all medium blue, with just a touch of red here and there. The shape looked nice, but… boring. Just boring.

But as I perused the Net of the Inter Webs, I ran across a completely cool looking custom paint scheme for the Mk. III – and much like the old V8 vegetable juice commercials, I had one those forehead slapping, Homer Simpson “DOH!” moments.

A Change Of Color

Why I had not already thought of simply changing the colors escapes me as I look back. Perhaps it’s a sign of age? Or just general goofiness… that’s probably it.

As I pondered the colors, many options ran through my mind. I’d thought about a purple and green scheme, but I wondered if it would seem to Hulk-like. Black and silver came to mind, but that would be difficult to work with. Somewhere a simple thought bubbled up to the surface…

Why not stick with the classic RX-78-2 colors, and just desaturate them a little? I knew it would not be very creative, but as the mobile suit did look like a logical progression from the original – I mean, it is a Mk. III version – sticking with those classic colors might look pretty cool. Desaturating them a bit would take away a bit of the cartoony look. I thought the Mk. III’s design looked a bit sinister anyway, so less vibrant colors would support that.

I didn’t want to map things out exactly the same though. It would be “inspired by”, not “clone of”. That was the plan going in, at least. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Nipping, Denubbing, Construction, and Deconstruction

I typically go through the process of snipping the parts off of the sprues, and cleaning up the subsequent nubs, while on my lunch break each day at work. It’s a great way to get my mind off of resetting passwords and other exciting subjects. (My day job is as a web developer.) Normally I treat them a bit like LEGO… each section of the Gunpla has its own little tray in a plastic box, and when everything is finished, they rattle around nicely with that same familiar plastic block sound I loved as a child.

While I did some assembly, such as inner frame parts, or exterior parts that were the same color, I’d never taken the route of fully assembling my Gunpla, and then later disassembling it. (No disassemble! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) My friend Andy from ABC Mecha (check out his Facebook page and give him a Like!) mentioned that he did just that – assembled the kit first – and that helped him spot seams that needed to be addressed and anything else that might be handy to account for in later painting. The logic sounded good to me.

In order to do this particular method, it’s important to keep one thing in mind – Bandai fit. Though the kits are snap fit, they fit really, really well. Tolerances are so tight and precise that quite often, once two parts have been fitted together, it can be just about impossible to get them apart.

However, there is a simple way around this. Using your handy-dandy part nippers to cut the pegs partially off, at about a 45 degree angle, allows more than enough friction to hold things in place, but still allow for the parts to later be separated. I found that if I cut the peg so that the “short side” of it aligned with the most logical direction the joining part would be separated, it made the process even easier.

I did run into a few areas where the pegs were very small, or difficult to get to. A friend and supporter of my Facebook Page, Ben K., suggested making a small snip in the hole side of the join, rather than the peg. That method worked perfectly for areas that nipping the peg was not feasible.

With the parts snipped, nipped and loosely assembled, I was rewarded with a snapped up, ready to be painted Gunpla for my lunchtime efforts.

The results of my lunchtime Gunpla work:

Third Generation Frame Painting

Once the Mk. III was home, I pulled it apart, except for the frame parts that could be fully painted while assembled. Normally I go for a fairly simple paint job for the frame – make it either dark grey or grimy metal, perhaps paint a few details here or there, but generally it’s very basic.

However, this time I had encountered a different way of doing it I wanted to try out.

Lincoln Wright, of Paint On Plastic, had recently released a very detailed video of his method for painting the frame details on a Gundam Barbatos Lupus Rex. Linc explained that the method he employed, of using multiple metallic colors, was a suggested by his friend Katsumi “Meijin” Kawaguchi.

If I may depart on a brief tangent, this is one of the aspects I love about the hobby in general. No matter what level a builder may be at, there is always some new technique, idea, method, or approach to putting together and painting our plastic toys. As experienced a modeler as Linc is, I found it encouraging that he would seek out new ways of building his models.ย 

And it was also great to know that someone of the stature and esteem of Meijin Kawaguchi would take the time to share his ideas for creating visual interest.

In my journey through the world of modeling over the last decade, I am always most impressed by the modelers who not only achieve great levels of skill in the hobby, but are also humble enough to graciously share their methods. It’s a great sign of the character of the artist, to see their skill as a gift to be shared, and not something to be hoarded. The former will take the time to patiently explain and demonstrate what they’ve learned… the latter simply answers flippantly, as though what skill they do have was acquired in a vacuum.

If I could encourage all modelers in anything, it would be to share the joy of the hobby.

Right… The Frame?

Anyway…

I wanted to incorporate some of the ideas Linc shared in his video. After initially priming the frame in black, I gave it a heavy, fairly wet dry brush of Citadel’s Leadbelcher. By “wet dry brush”, I mean that I wanted to leave some of the black undercoating shining through, but I wanted a more complete coverage than is normally associated with dry brushing. The method for doing this is essentially the same as normal dry brushing, with the minor adjustment of not off-loading quite as much paint onto a paper towel as would normally be done. This will impart more paint to the subject faster, and give a more thorough coverage. However, it does not fully paint it. The beauty of this method is it leaves a very nice finish that I don’t think can be achieved by either airbrushing or traditional brush painting.

With the frame painted, I I gave all parts a heavy coat of Citadel’s Nuln Oil. This imparts a grimy, worn, heavy metal look to the frame – but because it is all acrylic, it’s Bandai plastic safe. The Nuln Oil also accentuates the dry brush “strokes”, and I think it really gives a nice, worn look to the parts.

Following the lead of Linc and Meijin, I began adding frame details with multiple metallic colors. For the various piping around the suit, I chose Ammo’s Metallic Red, a bright, punchy metal color. Brush painting it on as Linc suggested, I focused on leaving the gaps between the pipes unpainted. There were quite a few slip ups on my part – Lincoln Wright I ain’t ๐Ÿ˜‰ … but I knew that later shade washes would mask that.

I also picked out other frame details with Vallejo Mecha Color Bronze and Ammo of Mig Aluminum. While I did try to think with some logic as to why a part would be a certain color, I also just let serendipity drive the process a bit, painting things here and there and seeing how it all turned out.

In the end, I was quite happy with the results. The frame appears quite “blingy”, and I think rather cool.ย 

All this because an accomplished Gunpla builder gave some suggestions to an accomplished Maschinen Krieger builder, who put it in a video to share with the world. All so a goofball in North Carolina could have fun painting his plastic toy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Finished Frame Parts:

And Now… The Rest Of The Colors

The balance of the remaining work was painting all of the armor. Going with my “desaturated” theme, I mixed my blue with equal parts Vallejo Mecha Color (VMeC) Titan Blue and Phantom Gray, and my red with three parts VMeC SZ Red and one part Phantom Gray. The white areas were painted with VMeC Offwhite, though a few areas were given a mix of that color with just a touch of Phantom Gray, to produce a lighter gray.

I mapped out the areas of the suit loosely based on the RX-78-2 scheme. It was decided to depart a bit from that though, as I felt painting the Mk. III’s feet blue would emphasize its somewhat “meaner” look, over the friendlier style of the original’s red slippers. The kit’s “cuffs” were red, and I liked that, so I retained that feature. Not show are some side ankle armor, which was also painted red. I did not add this in to the photos simply because the parts are so hard to get in and out of the sockets, I’ll wait until the kit is finished to add those.

I still plan to do some additional color touches that I think will look nice. I often leave those little armor accents off the model until I’ve had a few days to look over the main blocks of color. This helps me decide what should fit where. I’m quite glad I did this, as initially I’d planned to do some small sections in red, but now as I look at the suit, I think a lighter or even Phantom gray touch here and there might work better.

Following those colors will of course be panel lining, weathering, shading and fading. I don’t plan to have this one look too beat up (plan being the operative word), but it will get some nicks and dings… if only to cover up a few places of real paint chipping from posing the model! ๐Ÿ™‚

The RE/100 Gundam Mk. III is very poseable. Here, he demonstrates a kick. (Or a dance, or trying to kick some doggy pooh off of his foot. I’m not sure which… ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I am very, very impressed with this kit so far. While I enjoyed the process of “pre-building it”, there was really no need. There are virtually no seam lines to deal with. A few small ones here and there can simply be treated as panel lines. And for an RE/100 kit, the articulation is very good. Even with the large pack on the back, it can stand on its own. And with the pack off – some fairly crazy poses can be made.

The best part about this build so far, I think, is the joy I get from learning, via Meijin and Linc, and then passing along what I know – from them – to the folks who read this. Who in turn can do the same. In a time when people rage against one another, it’s nice to have the safe harbor of our hobby to join a few friends together, across the globe.

It reminds me of modeling as a kid, gathered in my carport with friends. We’d sit, and build, and talk, and laugh, and all the barriers seemed to go away.

I like that. It’s fun. And fun is what it’s all about.

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